Influenza (flu) activity levels are increasing across the state of Alabama. The flu is a very contagious respiratory illness. Some of the symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue.
“This increased rate of flu activity is concerning because influenza can be a serious disease for anyone, including children, pregnant women, and previously healthy young adults,” said Dr. Burnestine Taylor, Medical Officer for Disease Control and Prevention for the Alabama Department of Public Health.
An annual influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older and is the best prevention against getting the flu. Physicians, pharmacists and county health departments can provide flu vaccinations for Alabamians. Request the “quadrivalent vaccine,” the one that protects against four influenza strains, because one of the strains in circulation in Alabama (Type B/Yamagata) is only included in the quadrivalent vaccine. In addition to taking the flu vaccine, other measures can reduce or prevent the spread of influenza. These include staying at home when sick, covering the mouth and nose with a tissue/cloth when coughing or sneezing, and washing hands or using hand sanitizer frequently.
Physicians should prioritize influenza as a possible diagnosis for ill patients when treating them. Additionally, all hospitalized patients and all high-risk patients (either hospitalized or outpatient) with suspected influenza should be treated as soon as possible with a neuraminidase inhibitor antiviral. Even if the rapid or quick flu test is negative, a patient may still have influenza.
“It’s not too late to get a flu shot to protect against this serious disease. People become protected about two weeks after receiving the vaccine,” said Dr. Taylor.
Public Health will be conducting a statewide flu vaccine awareness campaign “Start 2018 Off On the Right Foot” beginning in January to educate the public and remind everyone it is not too late to get the flu vaccine. Contact your private provider, pharmacy or local county health department to receive an influenza vaccination. For more information contact the Immunization Division of the Alabama Department of Public Health at (334) 206-5023 or toll free at 800-469-4599, and visit alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization for updated influenza activity information.